She grabbed a spring jacket and slipped into her knock-off crocs, thinking it was likely still too early to run into anyone on a Sunday morning. She was right; the building was silent and outside the only sounds were the chirping of some hardy birds and a few cars on Bath Road. She hurried over the grass to the patch of ground below her balcony
The splotch was harder to make out close up but it was there, roughly circular and just a bit darker than the dirt around it. She looked up through the thin branches, remembering the whiplike cuts on her face and the copious amounts of blood she’d had to wash out of her hair. The gash on her head must have bled enormously. She knelt down to peer more closely at the dirt, poking at it a bit with a twig. The ground was chill; dense and difficult to scratch and she noticed a few small clumps of… something. Something brownish and muddy looking. She leaned over and nudged it with the stick.
Whatever it was stuck to the stick and pulled away a bit. The wet innards were grayish and clung to some pale, hard pieces. She frowned, peering closer. What was this stuff?
Oh god. She recoiled. The dark spot, the gray matter. The vast amounts of blood.. She dropped the stick and stood up quickly. Her hand crept up to her head, fingers running through and under her hair to her scalp. Nothing to feel, of course. What was before her was the only evidence that anything at all had happened.
She didn’t quite know what to do about it. After a few moments she squatted back down and used the stick to laboriously scratch up a little pile of dirt which she pushed over the small patch of brains and bone, pressing it down lightly with her foot. With that done she wrapped her arms around herself and hurried back to the front doors. Her thoughts were entirely focused on the grisly discovery she’d made and so she was unprepared for someone to step off the elevator when the doors opened.
It was the fifth floor guy. He looked dressed for the gym, wearing track shorts and runners and an expensive-looking track jacket. His black hair was still damp from the shower and his bright blue eyes looked a bit sleepy. She and the fifth floor guy often arrived at the building around the same time in the evening, checking their mail and taking the elevator up in tandem. They didn’t talk beyond polite greetings and she wasn’t sure if he was unfriendly. He didn’t seem that way; mostly just… distant, she guessed. Whatever it was he looked just as surprised to see her early on a Sunday morning.
“Hi,” he said a bit blankly.
“Hi,” she said in return, stepping aside to let him pass. She saw his eyes flick down to her hands, covered in dirt, and a small frown pinched the skin between his eyes, then to her mortification his eyes lifted and settled on her chest causing his frown to deepen. In the elevator mirrors behind him she could see the long streaks of barely-cooked steak blood staining her skin and top and she wanted to die right there. Too bad she probably couldn’t, a small voice in the back of her mind reminded her.
He cleared his throat and stepped out just as the doors started to close again, pushing a hand against them quickly to keep them open for her. “Are… uh, are you OK?” he asked .
She nodded, pulling her jacket closed over her front. “Yes, fine. Have a good day!” He nodded back at her with a confused expression but the doors started to close again and she busied herself with pressing the button for the sixth floor and willing herself not to make any more eye contact. She spent the ride up castigating herself furiously for not changing her top. Back in the apartment she changed her shirt immediately, shaking her head at herself.
Google searches to see what traumatized brains looked like weren’t helpful. The myriad articles about zombies frustrated her, and the grisly suicide and accident images didn’t show her what she was looking for.
Discouraged, she slumped back in her chair. She didn’t know anyone with the right kind of medical knowledge and asking anyone else could raise questions she was not prepared to answer. She shrugged and tried to resign herself to not knowing, resisting the urge to go back down and scoop the brains into a ziplock bag.
Tags: Chapter One